Electric cars, mostly of the hybrid type (i.e. they have both gasoline and electric engines) is on the verge of entering the mass market. Many car producers have unveiled plans to produce a hybrid electric car by as early as 2010. Recently, electricity distributors in the Netherlands have set up a project to install 10,000 recharging stations (for electric cars) throughout the country. This trend is driven by the many factors: the drive to lower carbon emissions, high oil prices (or the threat that oil prices will rise again), technological breakthroughs in electric engine and battery design…
This trend will most certainly affect the Philippines too – in as soon as a year or two from now. Perhaps it then not too early to look into how electric cars could impact the country.
Relatively Fast Adoption
People who have cars in the Philippines mainly use them for short distances, usually within the city or metropolitan area. The first wave of hybrid electric cars will have a range of 200 kilometers on a full charge. Already, this would be more than enough for most cars. In addition, the electric car is quite suited to the stop-go traffic in the city, being a lot more economical than oil-based cars.
Already, Filipinos are starting to get used to having electric vehicles. The solar jeepney in Makati and the E3 tricycles in Taguig show that public transportation operators are open to having electric vehicles.
An important factor that would affect the rate of adoption of hybrid electric cars would be its cost. The cost of the electricity needed to charge the cars would be much less than that of the gasoline or diesel needed by ordinary cars. But the price of the car itself should not be too high as to negate the advantage of the cheaper fuel. Hopefully, if Chinese companies are able to produce hybrid electric cars that are cheap – or at least not much more expensive than ordinary cars -Philippine auto buyers will buy a lot of them.
Effect on Electricity Supply
The adoption of electric cars, if massive enough, would have an effect on the overall supply of electricity. There would be a need to rapidly build more capacity in the electric grid, to be able to cope with the increased demand. If the cars are recharged mainly overnight, the effect would be somewhat lesser, since it would not burden the electricity grid during the daytime peak hours. However, if cars are recharged mainly during the day – while being parked near workplaces – then it would really increase the burden on the grid.
The price of electricity will increase in response to the increased demand. This in turn will help to bring alternative sources of energy nearer the break-even point, where it would be competitive with fossil-fuel sources of electricity. And the increased price will also force consumers to conserve electricity.
There is a danger that the rapid adoption of electric cars will result in electricity outages. And that new fossil-fuel electricity generating plants may have to be built to cope with the increased demand. But since electric cars are more efficient than traditional cars, the net effect will be to reduce overall fossil-fuel consumption.
Electric cars do not pollute during operation. The pollution is made in the electricity generating plant instead. And the pollution will depend on how the electricity is generated – naturally, a fuel-oil generator will still emit pollution, while wind or hydro generators will not.
But since electric cars operate cleanly, it means that the pollution in the streets and the cities will be less. There would be less fumes from traffic, our clothes will get less dirty, noise levels will be less, etc. And since the pollution is generated in the electricity generating plants, anti-pollution measures could be more easily put into place.
See also: Electric Cars